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Storytellers launch 20th annual PEC Authors Festival

storyteller-Janet-KelloughThis week’s 20th annual Prince Edward County Author’s Festival launched Sunday at Mt. Tabor in Milford with three practitioners of oral craft telling tales connecting people, culture and history.

The County’s favourite storyteller, Janet Kellough, headlined the event which also introduced Brad Woods, based in Guelph, and welcomed Dave Carpenter, pinch-hitting for Suzanne Pasternak, who was unable to attend.

Though better known the past few years as author of four books in the Thaddeus Lewis Mystery Series, Kellough started out as a storyteller and has been telling tales through performance arts, and in the media, for decades.

“Growing up in Prince Edward County, I was always surrounded by bits and pieces of this wonderful history, folklore and legend and it always intrigued me. As an adult, I decided to start telling stories,” said the seventh generation County native.

“I started storytelling because I think a community defines itself by the stories it tells about itself, and it’s an important thing to do – to share personal, and collective memories.”

Confessing she likes coming to Milford to sit with the stone-crafted “The Miller” outside the post office, she opened her performance with an amusing historical story about the family of Joseph Clapp, the original miller in Milford.

She also unravelled an ironic story about Orange Lodge members, about love and gold and treasure still hidden in the Sandbanks’ dunes, timber that supplied the Royal Navy (hence, Royal Road) and tales from the top to the bottom of Prince Edward and beyond – including the mystery of the Marysburgh Vortex.

She wrapped with a tale about banshees in Big Swamp – but only those in attendance know the truth of the tale.

Brad Woods

Brad Woods

Brad Woods, a former director of the Storytellers School of Toronto has performed across the nation and UK.

“I’ve been telling stories for a long time now,” he said, explaining important components – including conflict, beasts, water, land or air, storm, disaster and the surprise.

“Some of the classic storytelling stories take hours and hours to tell, but the stories I like to tell take about 10 minutes.”

He took listeners overseas and to deeply personal places with a delightful weave of innocence and reality in the tale of how an eight-year-old, feeling all the freedom of the world, gets permission to walk alone to the corner store.

“When you’re eight-years-old you live in the moment and people are either scary, nice or funny,” he noted, unfolding the story of being knocked by the neighbourhood bully, and saved by his older brother within a 10 minute span that changed his perspective on how people can unexpectedly be scary, nice, and funny.

He also mixed an endearing tale of his grandfather’s wedding ring that made its way through the family, and charming stories of his own rings – lost, found and lost again.

“Grampa had the biggest hands and the firmest handshake… When he died, my grandma wore the ring on a necklace,” he recalled. “She was such a waif of a gal, it might as well been a bracelet. It was the most romantic thing I had ever seen.”

He explained this particular story – just like the rings – didn’t have an ending. “And storytelling itself, shouldn’t end.”

JD Carpenter

JD Carpenter

The afternoon did come to a conclusion, with readings from crime fiction writer Dave Carpenter, who lives in the County and created the Campbell Young Mystery Series.

He read from his new novel, The County Murders, about Saybrook, a quiet eastern Ontario town, quiet, until a local winemaker dies under mysterious circumstances.

His mystery concerns itself as much with the townspeople and their issues – the influx of ex-urbanites converting hayfields into vineyards; controversies over wind turbines and smoking bylaws – as it does with what turns out to be a string of suspicious deaths.

Sunday’s Celebration of Storytelling was also a fundraiser for the Prince Edward Learning Centre which offers literacy upgrading, pre-employment training, tutoring, credit courses, financial literacy, computer and essential skills training.

The County Authors Festival continues Wednesday to Saturday with various events. See below and, for details, visit


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